We'll Always Have Pears

I ran into him at Whole Foods, right between the Boscs and the Comices. My heart did a wild little jig. It was Steve C--a very cute, semi-famous writer I had had a blind date with once several years before.  At the time I had felt it was a good sign that we had not one but two mutual friends, from totally different areas of my life.  He was sweet, smart, sophisticated, centered, handsome, funny, paid for dinner at an excellent restaurant of his choosing and asked me about my career.  A 100-percent-perfect date, except for one thing: It gradually became clear that I was not his cup of anything.  When he left me in front of my apartment building (oh yes, just to add to the torture, he had impeccable manners,) I let him know I was interested.  But I was pretty sure I would not hear from him again.  Later I heard Steve had married a slim, 27-year-old trilingual poet.  Just after that he published a brilliant book that got a rave (of course) in the Times.  I knew that he and his wife had recently had a baby.

And now here he was.  Looking as self-possessed as ever.  I took a deep breath and put on my very best “my life could not be going any better” smile.

“Oh!…Hello, how are you!?”  I practically sang.  We exchanged the requisite “Fine thankyou’s.”  Oddly, he seemed genuinely glad to see me.  (Boy, he did ever have good manners.)

“And congratulations on the baby by the way,”  I beamed, relieved that I was revealing no signs at all of my inner rejected self. “How is your wife? I’m so sorry, I can’t remember her name.”  He told me she was great.  We talked about the baby for awhile.  I asked how his writing was going; he asked how mine was going.  After about ten minutes I began to notice a vague hint of bafflement in his eyes.  “Maybe he can’t remember my name and feels awkward,” I thought.

“Have you seen Paul?”  I asked, putting an avocado into my cart. (Paul was one of the aforementioned mutual friends.)

Steve looked at me blankly.  “Paul?”

Suddenly it struck me with horror that this was not, in fact, Steve C, but was an entirely different person--a Columbia professor I had mingled with on not one but two separate occasions, both of these within the last six months. Each time we had had lengthy and fairly deep conversations.  Sure, both men had dark brown hair and were roughly the same size, but I’m supposed to be Miss Mingle for god’s sakes!  And I don’t even know who I am talking to!  Naturally the professor also had a wife (what straight man in New York over 40 doesn’t?) and coincidentally a new baby; and he was published, like most professors. Which is why this case of mistaken conversation had gone on so long.

I flailed. “Oh my god, I thought you were…”  (What? Someone else? At this point that seemed inadequate.)  “….I mean, you know how when you see people out of context, it can be…. (This was getting worse by the moment.)  He raised his eyebrow and smiled a cool, tolerant smile. A smile that said, “I would be insulted, but this woman is mentally impaired so I should be kind.”  That was when I realized I could not even recall this man’s name.  I mumbled something about lack of sleep and fled.

 I think all the intelligent, handsome, unavailable men I have met in this city are starting to blur together.


  1. I haven't suffered through this particular case of mistaken identity, but the story did bring to mind a couple of awkward phone calls I have received from people who assumed I knew who they were from the mere sound of their voice, when in fact I knew no such thing. And it's funny to me, in retrospect, how saying, "Who is this?" seemed like the ultimate way to lose face at the time. Sort of like why I routinely deny I was sleeping when somebody calls and wakes me up.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brett. When I get a phone call as I am just waking up, I sometimes practice saying "Hello"on my way to the phone, to make sure my voice doesn't sound sleepy.

  3. We've all forgotten names and confused people. I was wondering if, with your best 20-20 hindsight, you can suggest any way to recover from this sort of gaffe -- I have been on both sides of this one, and one time a guy I thought I knew well obviously confused me with someone whom I vaguely resembled.. and kept asking me things like "how's the radio station in Atlanta" (when I'm actually a New York based writer.) I am embarrassed to admit I just played along rather than correct his mistake.

  4. In retrospect, when I realized my mistake upon my reference to Paul, I might have said something like, "Oh, I forgot you don't know Paul; he was at that party where I met you and for some reason I assumed you were friends." And then I could have immediately asked him how things were at Columbia. But that would have taken a lightening quick mental process I was not able, apparently, to muster up on that fateful day at Whole Foods.

  5. This conversation reminded me of a very funny "mistaken identity" song by Flight of the Conchords, which very well worth watching if you haven't seen it before, or even if you have.


  6. Thanks for that, Brett! I love the FOCs.